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Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny barred from entering presidential race

Posted December 25, 2017 10:40 a.m. EST

— Russian officials barred activist Alexey Navalny from entering the country's presidential race a day after he held nomination gatherings to kick off his run, according to state-run media outlet RIA-Novosti.

Russia's Central Election Commission (CEC) rejected Navalny's registration the day after he submitted it, citing a previous embezzlement conviction, RIA-Novosti reported.

"Firstly, a citizen who has been sentenced to imprisonment for committing a grave or especially grave crime and who has an outstanding conviction for the said crime, has no right to be elected president of the Russian federation," said CEC member Boris Ebzeev.

The decision was not a surprise. Navalny's candidacy was unlikely because Russian law prevents convicted criminals from running for public office, though Navalny and his supporters have said his conviction was politically motivated to block his presidential bid.

Navalny would be running against incumbent President Vladimir Putin, who announced his intention to seek re-election as an independent candidate at his annual press conference earlier this month.

Navalny called for a boycott of the March 2018 election in response to the CEC's decision.

"We are announcing a voters' strike," Navalny said. "The procedure in which we are invited to participate is not an election. It involves only Putin and those candidates whom he personally chose, who do not pose a slightest threat to him."

The opposition activist is widely popular among young people and has tapped into anger over a sluggish economy and endemic corruption. Navalny first rose to prominence during 2011's large-scale anti-government protests.

Developing story - more to come